FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Tel Aviv: Mediterranean Hot Spot

by Victoria Abbott Riccardi

Dec 1, 2016
December 2016

Nicknamed “the city that never sleeps,” Tel Aviv was the first modern metropolis Israel built in 1909, as a spillover to the ancient port of Jaffa. Perched on the Mediterranean coast just 37 miles northwest of Jerusalem, modern Tel Aviv pulses with youthful, creative energy. Beyond its sophisticated architecture, vibrant beach scene, rich arts culture and happening nightlife, it offers excellent shopping and incredibly good food, both cutting-edge and traditional.

The most convenient way for U.S. travelers to get to Tel Aviv (short of a private jet) is to fly non-stop from several U.S. gateways on major carriers such as EL AL Israel Airlines or Delta Air Lines. The flight from New York’s JFK to Tel Aviv, for example, takes about 10 hours. Ben Gurion International Airport, the major gateway into Israel, lies only 25 minutes by private car, taxi or limousine from downtown Tel Aviv. If you wish, you can take the national bus company’s Egged bus.

Much of Tel Aviv’s action takes place along the beach, and one of the nicest hotels in the area is the luxurious, 5-star InterContinental David Tel Aviv. With 555 guestrooms and suites, it offers a well-equipped business center complete with meeting rooms, audiovisual equipment and high-speed wireless access. From a leisure standpoint, the hotel sits near Alma Beach and features an outdoor pool, a fitness center and a spa, along with two restaurants and two bars.

Also near the beach lies the slightly smaller Carlton Tel Aviv Hotel with 268 guestrooms and suites, many with ocean views. Consider requesting the Royal Executive Lounge, which in addition to your room comes with a large adjoining conference room fitted with a projector, computers, WiFi and secretarial services. The hotel sports three dining venues and two bars along with a rooftop pool, spa and health club.

If boutique hotels are more your style, you might enjoy The Norman Tel Aviv. Located adjacent to Rothschild Boulevard in the White City, so named because of the area’s abundance of white Bauhaus-style buildings (think Art Deco Miami), The Norman occupies two 1920s buildings. The 50 stylish guestrooms have hardwood floors, floor-to-ceiling windows and period details. Two penthouse suites boast their own private terraces with outdoor hot tubs and views across the city. The hotel includes a Mediterranean restaurant, an Asian fusion eatery and Library Bar, along with a wellness center and rooftop infinity pool. A thoughtful touch for business executives is the fully equipped boardroom with seating for up to 16 people.

Another 1920s townhouse-turned-boutique hotel is the 12-room Hotel Montefiore, built in the Eclectic style (pre-Bauhaus) and possibly the hippest place in Tel Aviv to lay your head. While it offers few business facilities, it abounds with character, artistry and charm. Each room has its own library, original artwork, floor-to-ceiling windows and black marble bathroom. The hotel’s red-hot popular brasserie makes a great place for a casual business meeting, whether it’s over breakfast, lunch, cocktails or a Vietnamese-influenced dinner.

Eating well in Tel Aviv is serious business. Beyond superb Israeli food, you’ll find restaurants specializing in cuisines from Russia, Poland, Bulgaria, Iran, Morocco, the Mediterranean and Asia. Tel Aviv also boasts a plethora of vegetarian and vegan restaurants, thanks, in part, to an increasingly health-conscious, foodie culture (remember, Tel Aviv is on the beach). Due to the country’s kosher laws, many restaurants are already meat- and dairy-free. Then there are the new, upscale spots that put exquisite local produce, herbs and spices on the center of the plate.

For business breakfast, it’s hard to rival the lavish buffets offered at hotels, which usually feature fresh fruit, yogurts, dozens of fresh and aged cheeses, egg dishes, meats, cured and pickled fish, pastries and sweet offerings like pancakes, along with various breads and homemade fruit jams. You’ll usually also find a massive salad bar as well as international offerings like miso soup with bowls of tofu, vegetables and boiled eggs; hot noodle dishes; and stir-fries. Dessert sections present a resplendent assortment of cakes, tarts and other confections.

Jaffa Court at the InterContinental David Tel Aviv offers a sumptuous Israeli breakfast buffet you can enjoy on the outdoor terrace, a delicious way to power up for the day with colleagues or clients. At Carlton on the Beach at The Carlton Tel Aviv Hotel you can breakfast alfresco with seaside views, while the Hotel Montefiore restaurant offers a cozier spot where the movers and shakers and elite come to meet and fuel up. If you happen to be in Tel Aviv for Sunday brunch, head to Dr. Shakshuka for an authentic taste of Israeli cuisine in a lively eatery with posters, photos and various relics on the walls, often presided over by the big man himself. The dish to order is Shakshuka, a North African specialty of eggs gently simmered in a spicy tomato sauce served with plenty of bread and napkins.

One of Tel Aviv’s most lauded restaurants is Catit, owned by Moroccan-born Meir Adoni, who trained and worked in Paris. Set in an elegant Ottoman house, the soothing cream-and-celery green restaurant offers fanciful, seasonal tasting menus for lunch and dinner with French, Moroccan and Mediterranean accents.

Sarona Market

Sarona Market © LEV TSIMBLER | DREAMSTIME.COM

Another excellent option, Dallal features upscale Israeli cuisine for lunch and dinner served in several elegant, former 19th-century houses connected by courtyards and a lush garden. Set in the historic neighborhood of Neve Tzedek, the restaurant’s name means “pampering” in Arabic.

Above the farmer’s market at the Tel Aviv Port, Kitchen Market specializes in Israeli/Italian-inspired lunch and dinner dishes. Starters might include tomato mozzarella salad with labneh (yogurt cheese) or warm calamari salad with roasted zucchini and yogurt, while main courses range from seabass bouillabaisse to lamb tortellini.

Should you have some downtime, consider strolling through Sarona Market, a complex of 91 shops, stalls and restaurants, making it the largest indoor market in Israel. A great place to pick up gifts, it abounds with all things tasty, including imported cheeses, breads, local fruits and vegetables such as pomegranates and dried dates, French Champagnes and local wines, exotic spices, chocolates, oils, teas, coffee and cookware. In fair weather head to the beach, if for nothing else than to check out the scene. Another option is to visit the Tel Aviv Museum of Art which, in addition to works by Degas, Henry Moore, Monet, Picasso, Jackson Pollock and Van Gogh, displays lots of modern art by Israeli artists. Last but not least, don’t miss strolling around the charming, old Arab port town of Jaffa to see what this part of Israel was like before the rise of Tel Aviv.

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